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On March 14th (3.14) we celebrate International Pi Day, whose name is shared with my cat. You'll often see my cat featured in many of the comics in my blog. Pi “π” is the symbol used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter which is approximately 3.14159. Pi is an infinite number, which means it cannot be represented as a simple fraction and the digits of Pi go on forever in a seemingly random sequence. I adopted my kitty more than a decade ago from Friends of Strays in St. Petersburg, Fl. The volunteer sat him on my lap and said, “Oh, this one is a snuggler.” I swear to you, Pi told me right then and there, that if I took him home his love and devotion (not to mention lap sitting) would go to infinity and beyond. Thus, his name.

My favorite book at the time was “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. It is a fantasy novel which won the Booker Prize in 2002 and it tells the story of a young Indian who finds himself lost at sea in a large lifeboat. His companions are four animals from his father's zoo which include an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and a tiger. The main character is named Piscine Molitor Patel, but because Piscine sounds like “pissing” and he was teased at school, he changed his name to Pi. He solidified the nickname with his classmates by writing an incredibly long part of the number Pi on the chalkboard.

A reviewer wrote that “Life of Pi” was about God, survival, and tiger training. Pi spent a lot of time trying to co-exist with the tiger with which he was trapped aboard the lifeboat and trying to train him. I applied the techniques in the novel to the cat that I had at the time and I actually managed to teach him to sit, shake paws, beg, and jump through a hoop. I became passionate about big cats and a couple years ago I showed my fine art at a Big Cat Rescue Fundraiser in Tampa which rescues exotic cats and rehabilitates injured or orphaned native wild cats. Big Cat Rescue was the subject of Netflix's “Tiger King” not long after the fundraiser. It focused on the small but deeply interconnected society of big cat conservationists which included the founder of Big Cat Rescue and a collector who she criticized for abusing and exploiting wild animals.

God is an important theme in the novel. Pi is raised in a secular Hindu family, but as a boy he becomes more devoutly Hindu and then also converts to Christianity and Islam. He practices all of these religions simultaneously despite the protests of the religious leaders of each, who assert that their religion is the true faith. At first, when he thinks about survival, as he is trapped aboard the lifeboat with a big cat, he thinks about giving up but his faith in God keeps him going. Pi uses all three religions concurrently in order to survive. "Life Of Pi" has been challenged and banned due to its religious content. Critics of the novel believe it is wrong of Pi to practice three separate belief systems because they tend to contradict each other in certain aspects. They argue this is a mockery of the faith despite the author intending it to be a narrative of a young boy finding his religious belief system.

Pi's adventure concludes in a hospital bed where he is interviewed by a pair of transport officials. The agents tell Pi that his story with the animals is too unbelievable for them to report. So Pi tells them a much more disturbing version in which his mother, the cook, and a sailor had been symbollically represented by the animals. Fearing for the limited supplies in the boat, the cook kills the sailor in this version, and later his mother. Pi kills the cook in a moment of self-preservation and revenge. You realize, Pi is represented in this version by the tiger. Joe Exotic, the “Tiger King” on the Netflic documentary, was the owner of approximately 70 big cats at a controversial park in Oklahoma. Now, the Tiger King has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for a murder-for-hire attempt on critic Carol Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. The series revealed that Baskin was one of the prime suspects in the 1997 investigation into the disappearance of her then-husband. During the show, some suggested she may have fed his remains to her tigers. Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and Pi Patel fought with their claws out. When channeling your inner tiger just check and make sure its for a good cause like making sure you get plenty of time snuggling with your cuddle buddy like my own tuxedo kitty. Keep going to infinity and beyond this March 14th. Happy International Pi Day!

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About the Author: Karen Strum is a Tampa Bay illustrator available for freelance projects. A unique cast of characters in her style can be designed for use in advertisements and materials for which you want something extra special. Karen's cartoons use retro imagery and vintage color palettes that add charm to every image she creates whether it is a comic, logo, diagram, book cover, or concept image. [Send an Email]


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